CULLMAN, Ala. – As churches respond to the Coronavirus pandemic by transitioning to online services and Bible studies, Northbrook Baptist Church is hoping to help smaller churches continue to minister. Pastor Keith Warden explained,
“There’s a lot of smaller churches, and then there’s also just guys that are bivocational, and so they don’t have the manpower and stuff. I know some churches are not normally doing video stuff every week or being online every week, and so this kind of puts them behind the eight ball with everything that’s going on right now. So that was just a way of really, more than anything else, just saying, ‘Hey, if there’s any way that we can help you or serve you, whether it’s video your sermon or some kind of message that you’d just like to put online for your congregation, we’ve got the equipment to do that, we’ve got some staff that can help us do that.”
“Man, I’ll tell you what: we’re all just trying to figure out ways that we can serve and help each other in really unusual times. So that’s just something we want to do, if we can. I don’t know if anybody will want to do it or have the need to do it, but it’s certainly something we could do and want to do, if it’s needed.”
How is Northbrook doing as an online church?
Warden shared, “It’s been good and, you know, I have mixed emotions about that. On one hand, I’m grateful that we could do it, because, man, we just really need to. There’s really no other way that you can remain connected with them when it’s all said and done. I was talking to somebody about this, this morning: you know, you really, ultimately, can’t really be a church if it’s just a virtual experience. You need to be with people. Churches are not churches, I don’t think, unless we can be together, but these are really unprecedented times. And so, you’re trying to figure out how best to give people a sense of connection and encouragement and instruction.”
Warden was happy overall with the digital turnout.
“We had a good response. I think that on Sunday we had right at 500 or more that were watching at one time. And then you had, I think it was well over a thousand views- people that maybe just stopped in, dropped in for a few minutes and moved on. But yeah, it was unusually pleasant: unusual in the sense that it doesn’t feel like a Sunday when you’re not together; that’s just odd. If you do what we do every week, if you’re a pastor, not being with your church on Sunday’s just odd. But at the same time, it was very gratifying and encouraging.”
Northbrook averages 600 at a typical Sunday morning service.
Not just worship services
Warden told The Tribune, “In our small groups, we had the majority of our small groups that used some kind of platform like Zoom or Facetime or something else to actually meet virtually as a small group. And so, a lot of our groups met on Sunday, and we expect almost twice that many to finally catch up to speed and do that this Sunday, because they’ve been motivated to do it, now. There’s a lot of those resources that people have never really tapped into, because they really haven’t wanted to- and, honestly, I probably haven’t, either- but now, you have to. And it’s really working well. And so, we were actually able to have a lot of small groups. I have a men’s group that I meet with each week, and we were able to meet (online) on Sunday night. And I have a class that I teach on Sunday morning, and so we met on Zoom. And really, by the end of the day, I felt almost as tired as I normally do on Sunday, because I actually ended up speaking and communicating with almost as many people as I normally do, absent the opportunity to just casually bump into folks.”
It’s certainly been an adjustment for Northbrook and other churches across the state, but Warden is thankful that the technology is available to stay connected with his congregation.
“So, it was different, and we’re trying to figure it out as we go. Every week is different, so we’ll probably get a little bit better at it and make some adjustments, depending how long all this lasts. But it’s different, and it’s amazing to think that we’re able to do this. If we were going through this even- what- ten years ago, it might have looked a lot different, at least for churches trying to connect.”
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